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Thunder Valley owner’s tribal council disciplines seven

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The United Auburn Indian Community’s tribal council has suspended benefits to seven members involved in an acrimonious dispute involving allegations from a breakaway group of misuse of funds and election improprieties. The group, which includes ex-tribal council chairwoman Jessica Tavares and former tribal council member Dolly Suehead, issued a statement Friday stating the seven were “banished” from the tribe for from between four and 10 years. “The banishments, which include a tribal elder and the former tribal council chair, strips the seven of all income they receive from their fair share of casino revenues, denies them their health-care coverage, and bars them from being on all tribal properties,” the group stated. Properties include the 270-member United Auburn Indian Community’s Thunder Valley Casino. The tribal council issued a defense of its action Friday, stating that swift action was required in the face of what it considers public defamation and false statements that put the tribe and its members’ economic security at risk. “When the tribe’s credibility with other governments and businesses, as well as its lenders, employees and partners, is damaged so publicly, it requires swift action,” the tribal council said. The seven are now reviewing possible legal remedies as well as other actions to challenge the tribal council ruling. Steven Maviglio who issued the statement for the breakaway group, said he has been threatened with a libel lawsuit if he continued to publicize their attempt to hold a recall and push for “open and fair elections.” “Never in their wildest dreams did tribal members who simply want accountability, transparency and fair elections expect to be attacked like this,” Maviglio said. “This is a sad and pathetic attempt at intimidation of tribal members who want their tribal operations to be run openly and their elections to be overseen by independent monitors.” The tribal council provided a statement critical of Tavares’ comments last week before and after the breakaway group’s petition for a recall election was rejected by the tribe’s election commission. Tavares was critical of tribal attorney Howard Dickstein and Maviglio repeated that criticism Friday. “Apparently Mr. Dickstein is worried that if the rest of the tribe finds out the details of his lavish overseas trips and Ferrari buying sprees, he will be booted from the United Auburn tribe just like he has from other California tribes,” Maviglio said. “Rather than stifle the outrage about his shenanigans, Mr. Dickstein has just poured gasoline on the fire. They’ve gotten an outpouring of support from the community.” The splinter group thought it had enough signatures to force the recall vote but the commission turned it down based on rules requiring notarization of signatures. The council clarified Friday that the notarization requirement was added in July 2011, to guarantee the authenticity of signatures. “It’s a violation of the United Auburn Indian Community’s constitution for a tribal member to defame the tribe outside of a tribal forum and publicly make false statements about the tribe’s programs,” the tribal council states. “The suspension of tribal benefits falls well within its jurisdiction, but it is truly unfortunate that the tribal council was forced into this situation.” The current tribal has two openings up for election Dec. 11. Tavares is challenging incumbent Kim Rey Dubac for the vice-chairwoman’s position and Suehead is contesting the treasurer’s post held by Brenda Conway. The breakaway group is contending that the tribal council decision removes Tavares and Suehead from the upcoming ballot. But the tribal council said the election committee hasn’t taken the two’s names off. The tribal council stated members are entitled to due process before a per capita distribution is stopped or reduced. The process allows for an individual to be heard by both the tribal council and an appeals board and be represented by legal counsel, the council stated.